Parshat Ki Tisa

Torah Reading for Week of February 24-March 2, 2013

“A Second Calling”
By Michael Raileanu, AJRCA Third year Rabbinical Student

 

I admire Allan Page. For those unaware of who he is, Mr. Page played professional football for the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears from 1967 – 1981. His career in the NFL was both long and outstanding. He was truly a dominant figure at his position, Defensive End, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was named one of the top 100 pro football players of all time and on top of all of that he was a respected and admired leader in the National Football Players Association (the player’s union) for most of his career. He was an exemplary member of the NFL fraternity throughout his career and left the field with pride and the respect of his peers. For most people that would have been enough. However, Mr. Page is also a lawyer. He is not just a “regular” lawyer. Rather, since 1992, Mr. Page has been an Associate Justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. In his years on the court he has once again proven himself to be one of the very best at what he does and has accumulated numerous accolades and awards.

Mr. Page excelled at one career, turned around and became one of the very best at something else. Most of us strive to be very good at one thing during our lifetime. Achieving it twice, and at such a significant level as he has done, is truly amazing.

Victor Schoenfeld is a friend of mine. I admire him, too. The next time you pick up a bottle of Golan Wine, please look at the back. You will see his signature as he is the head winemaker. Vic is one of the few people I have ever known in my life who knew what he wanted to be when we were kids and has grown up to do just that. When we were in high school he knew he wanted to make wine. He went to UC Davis for his degree in Agriculture and then a Masters in Oeneology (the science of wine making). He is successful and happy. He is doing what he wanted to do, does it well, and people all over the world see his name everyday without even knowing the really great guy who is literally behind the bottle.

This week’s parasha, Ki Tisa, speaks to the issue of who does what and how well it gets done. G-d speaks to Moshe “…singling out Bezalel, son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have endowed him with a divine spirit of skill, ability, and knowledge in every kind of craft (Ex 31:1 – 3).” Now in Exodus Rabbah we learn that Moshe was expecting to be the only person holy enough to make the accoutrements of the Temple. However, G-d has another plan in mind. If given the right instructions, one can construct just about anything; however in order to make something valuable, something of true beauty, requires a higher level of understanding.

Moshe had been a prince in Egypt and a successful shepherd in Midian but his real calling, the thing he was destined to do, was to lead the Jewish people out of Egypt and to lead them in the new and somewhat baffling ways of G-d. He could have made “nice things” for the Temple but would that have been the best use of his time? Would he have made them as beautifully as someone who has been touched by G-d? Doubtful, even for Moshe.

On top of this the Midrash teaches us that Bezalel might have been as young as 13 years old. Moshe many years his senior, and by the way, Bezalel’s uncle, must have been taken aback. Furthermore, for his assistant G-d chose Oholiab, from the tribe of Dan, the smallest tribe. (One from Judah, the greatest of the tribes and one from Dan, the lowliest of the tribes, a clear demonstration that we are all called to serve G-d no matter our societal standing.) Moshe challenged Bezalel’s qualifications by ordering him to first build the Holy Ark, then the tools, and, finally, the Tabernacle. Bezalel considered this command and replied, “Moshe, my teacher, it is proper that people should first build their home and provide the furnishings. If you ask me to make the furnishings and then build the sanctuary, what will I do with the furnishings when there is no sanctuary ready to receive them?” Moshe was delighted with Bezalel’s wisdom and replied, “You are right, the command was given just as you say. You are ‘in the shadow of G-d’ and that is how you knew.” (Legends of the Bible, Louis Ginzberg)

Allan Page had a successful career and moved on to a second where he has enjoyed tremendous success (like Moshe). He did not become a lawyer and a doctor and a dentist and an accountant, like Moshe, trying to do everything for the people and G-d (remember the advice from his father-in-law Yitro). He found that second particular calling and rose to the very top. Vic Shoenfeld, on the other hand, started from a young age, pursued his passion and enjoys a very specialized career and great success (my very own Bezalel).

Most of us at the AJRCA are following in the footsteps of Moshe. We have pursued one career and now find ourselves preparing for something else. If we are thoughtful, studious, and serious, we too will enjoy success and contentment, hopefully more contentment then Moshe knew. It is my prayer that we will take on the leadership responsibilities with the seriousness of purpose that Moshe demonstrated and with Bezalel’s youthful enthusiasm and artistic appreciation for all that is beautiful.

 

Shabbat Shalom.

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